Cristiano Ronaldo becomes the first man to score in five editions of the World Cup in Portugal's Group H clash with Ghana
Doha (AFP) - Cristiano Ronaldo claimed a piece of World Cup goalscoring history on Thursday as Brazil launched their quest for a record sixth title with a 2-0 victory over Serbia.
Ronaldo became the first man to score in five different editions of the World Cup as he slotted home a controversial penalty to help Portugal down Ghana 3-2 in their Group H clash.
The typically ice-cold spot-kick was Ronaldo’s eighth career goal at the World Cup and comes after a tumultuous week which saw the star forward make a sensational exit from Manchester United after weeks of tensions with the club.
“It was a beautiful moment, my fifth World Cup, we won, and we started with our good foot,” Ronaldo said after the win.
“It’s a very important win, we know the first match is crucial, but the world record is also something that makes me very proud.”
But there was controversy surrounding the penalty, which was awarded after Ronaldo crashed theatrically to the turf following minimal contact with Ghana defender Mohammed Salisu.
Furious Ghana coach Otto Addo described the penalty decision as a “gift” to Ronaldo.
“I think it was a really wrong decision, we were playing the ball… I don’t know why VAR didn’t come up, there is no explanation,” Addo said.
“If somebody scores a goal then congrats, but it was really a gift… a special gift from the referee.”
Andre Ayew raised hopes for Ghana with a 73rd minute equaliser but goals from Joao Felix and Rafael Leao ensured a winning start for the Euro 2016 champions. Osman Bukari scored a late consolation for Ghana.
In Thursday’s late game meanwhile, two second half goals from Tottenham forward Richarlison – including a spectacular acrobatic scissor-kick – helped Brazil to victory over Serbia in Group G.
After a stubborn defensive display, Serbia finally cracked in the 62nd minute when a shot by Vinicius Jr. was saved by goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic but only as far as Richarlison who drilled in the rebound.
Brazil's players celebrate after Richarlison scores a second-half wonder goal to put the South Americans 2-0 up against Serbia
Richarlison then grabbed a spectacular second in the 73rd minute, flicking up a low pass by Vinicius before swivelling in mid-air to lash home an exquisite volley.
The 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium erupted in delight at the moment of magic before Richarlison wheeled away to be mobbed by his team-mates.
“It’s a childhood dream come true,” Richarlison said afterwards.
“We played a good game, especially in the second half, when the opponent got tired, and we managed to take advantage of that.”
- Cameroon misery -
Switzerland and Cameroon, also in Brazil’s group, kicked off Thursday’s action in Qatar, with the Swiss winning 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Cameroon-born Breel Embolo.
Switzerland forward Breel Embolo scores against Cameroon in his side's World Cup opener
The forward struck three minutes into the second half at Al Janoub Stadium as Switzerland secured a vital three points.
Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler worked the ball out wide on the right to Xherdan Shaqiri, whose low cross into the area was swept home by an unmarked Embolo, who chose not to celebrate against his birth country.
“It’s quite special for him because of his links to Cameroon – I’m very happy he’s playing for us,” said Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer. “He’s always right there when you need him.”
Defeat condemned Cameroon to their eighth straight loss at World Cups – a miserable run stretching all the way back to 2002.
In Thursday’s other game, the return of Tottenham star Son Heung-min was not enough to inspire South Korea to victory with the Asian side grinding out a 0-0 draw with Uruguay in Group H.
The striker wore a mask to protect the injury he suffered while playing in the Champions League for Spurs as South Korea took a point in their opener.
The 30-year-old had surgery for fractures around his left eye just three weeks ago and this was his first time playing competitively since.
“I feel ok, I’m not the only one to wear a mask, some players wear masks. I feel comfortable,” he told reporters afterwards.
“I’m just happy to be here, happy with the mask that I could play, it’s just so amazing.”
Meanwhile, the shockwaves from Germany’s monumental upset defeat to Japan on Wednesday continued to reverberate, with coach Hansi Flick warning no member of his team was safe after the 2-1 loss.
The four-time champions, who next face Spain, are facing a nightmare scenario of a second consecutive group-stage exit after their early departure in Russia in 2018.
“You can understand that we are discussing every matter of personnel and every position,” Flick said.